Our guest today blows me away. Not only does she really dig romantic suspense, but she’s so darn organized with it, I’m starting to really feel a tad wee bit like a slacker. And she even came with a giveaway, so if you’d like to win a copy of her new romantic suspense, read all the way to the end for entry details. But first, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to know S.J. Clarke!
Welcome, and congratulations on the release of MIND OVER MATTER! You have a pretty amazing backlist of nonfiction work. How did your previous writing (as well as the release of TOURETTIES, which we’ll talk about in a moment) affect your decision to write fiction, or did it?
Thanks, for having me here today! Starting with non-fiction gave me a great foundation, and a much needed boost of confidence. I demonstrated, to myself and others, I could finish well written pieces on deadline. And people liked what I wrote!
Confidence is a big part of making it as an author—what an awesome way to kickstart your career! But I’ve got to say, TOURETTIES must be better yet. It sounds like an amazing project. Will you share a bit about it with our readers? How did you come to co-author on it?
I had Tourette’s as a child, and now my teen son has it. Tourette’s is poorly understood and it’s hard to obtain useful information on the topic. What I found at the time was mostly from the point of view of medical professionals. There aren’t any drugs to treat Tourette’s, only ones that treat the co-morbid conditions of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I spent a lot of time online looking for parents of Tourette’s patients. I wanted the inside scoop on how they deal with Tourette’s in their every day lives. At school, on sports teams, socially, within the family – I needed coping mechanisms.
I found an excellent website (http://tourettenowwhat.tripod.com/) and started reading and posting on their forum. Chris Mason, a fellow member, sent out a call on the message boards. He explained he wanted to write a book from the perspective of patients and families living with Tourette’s. When he asked for contributors I jumped at the chance. This is exactly the kind of resource I’d spent months looking for.
With such a strong personal connection, your work must have truly been from the heart, and I bet your words have been wonderful so for many others. Congratulations on being a part of what has surely made a difference for so many.
Switching gears a bit, MIND OVER MATTER is the first title in your new Anderson Security series. Can you give us the lowdown on the series, and how MIND OVER MATTER ties in?
Anderson Security Inc. was formed by Evan Anderson. Many of the group served together on Special Ops teams, though not all. Evan hand-picked each member for their particular area of expertise. and each will get their own story. There is an over-arcing plot line that threads throughout the series, and will resolve in the final book.
That is TOTALLY my kind of series! The plot of MIND OVER MATTER is pretty profound. How did it come together for you?
This story came to me as part of a course I was taking at the time. The teacher asked us to create a single sentence containing a protagonist, an antagonist, a need for each, an interesting setting, a conflict, and a twist – oh and it had to be thirty words or less. The result is the sentence that became the original tag line for the book.
(Sarah interrupting to say that is freaking AWESOME!)
Mind over Matter is set in a fictional town at the base of a fictional mountain in Arizona. But both were inspired by local folklore, specifically tales surrounding the Superstition Mountains. The Superstitions have a deep history, most of it violent. Rumours of hauntings and lingering spirits who protect the peak abound. Visitors with paranormal abilities claim their gifts are enhanced during their time on the mountain. I added many of those characteristics to my fictional mountain range, which plays a big part in the story.
In the end, the inspiration came from the sentence, and I let the setting fill in the atmosphere and conflict.
What a great look behind the scenes! And do I EVER want to go check out those mountains (I love real life ghost stories!) Let’s put you on the other side of the book for a moment. Which genre are you drawn to as a reader? Do you prefer to read in the same genre as your WIP or do you mix it up?
I read a wide variety of books. Of course I read a lot of psychic phenomena, but I’m drawn to anything paranormal, including the Urban Fantasy genre with weres, vampires, demons angels…you name it. I read YA, Sci-Fi, Distopian, Mystery, Suspense, Adventure, Thriller. I’m not so much into horror. They give me nightmares. I used to read a lot of historical but not recently. I’m a romance reader at heart. I like stories to have at least a hint of romance. Bottom line: If the storyline intrigues me, I’ll pick it up. So make the back of the book blurb count and get your twist into the first few pages because that’s what sells me on the book.
I’ve got to agree with you, and I love how you worded your thoughts. :c) And from there, to THERE . . . looking back over all of the intimate moments you’ve created between characters, which scene would you most like to experience for yourself? What makes it so alluring?
LOL From the love scenes in my books, readers might believe I have a fetish for lovemaking standing up. But what I really have a thing for is characters so caught up in the moment it doesn’t matter where they are. If the mood strikes when they’re in a public place, even better – it’s fun watching them struggle to maintain control. It’s even more fun when they have to stop. Maybe frustrating is a better word – for the characters and readers, anyway. Those scenes are sure fun to write.
I am SO with you on that! I love it for the very same reasons — that loss of control is HAWT! Of course, not all the passion is fun — sometimes it results in some head butting. (Seriously, guys, stay with me. I’m talking about verbal sparring here! LOL.) Have you ever battled with any of your characters over their personality traits? If so, who won – you or the character?
I win, of course. I hold the mighty pen. But they sneak a few traits in when I’m not looking. If it’s wimpy or out of character my crit group calls them out. Revisions offer excellent opportunity for the characters to prove those moments create a better story. If they don’t, they get the boot.
Love the sneaky characters! (They’re like teenagers sometimes, aren’t they? Or maybe toddlers . . . LOL.) Have you ever made big changes in your story because someone – your crit partner, a friend, or beta reader – really didn’t like it? Are you glad you did (or didn’t)?
Ugh! If you’d asked me this last month I’d have said no. But I’m taking part in a Revision Boot Camp through Savvy Authors right now and I’m getting feedback suggesting I need to do just that. I went into the course looking to extend this particular WIP by expanding a few existing subplots. What I’m getting is far from anything I’d planned. It’s a lot of work, tracking the changes and setting them up in the rest of the book. But it makes for a better story. Or it will, once I write it:o)
Aw, man. That’s a timely response for the next question: how do you keep track of plot elements or twists?
I’m so left brained, it isn’t funny. LOL I’m a plotter to the nth degree. Remember that sentence I mentioned earlier – the one that became the tag line for the story? Well I do one of those for every scene. Then I put them on cue cards, which I keep in my face while I’m writing the scene. Of course, I make changes in the story as I go, and if it affects the plot further along, or earlier, I pull out the appropriate scene card and jot a note down on the back to remember to adjust for the change during revisions. I don’t go back and fix it then. I keep writing the current draft.
Oh, my . . . yes, I think I just fainted. Whew. While I recover, how about telling us what about your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?
I write paranormal romance, and it’s got to have an element of suspense to it. This touches all my hot buttons. It’s what I read voraciously, so it’s what I gravitate to when I write. I read a lot of urban fantasy as well, and one day, I suspect I’ll try my hand at writing one. I don’t think I’ll be able to resist. I need to read more of them first though, to understand all the elements of the genre.
As for what it says about me, well, I’m drawn to anything paranormal in real life too. I have friends who are psychic. The possibilities intrigue me. I’ve even used Tarot cards to plot a book. Yup, you heard that right, Tarot cards, but not in the way you think. They’re an excellent tool as idea generators.
Wow. You amaze me, woman! I’m totally with you on the suspense, though. I LOVE suspense! And speaking of suspense, let’s uncover what’s next for you, shall we? What are you currently working on?
Forecasting Raine, book two in the ASI series. revolves around ASI team member Nick Jamieson. Nick’s long buried psychic ability resurfaces, along with his guilt, when a sniper’s bullet almost takes him out. His subsequent investigation reveals a threat that could take down ASI, and a past lover with every reason to want Nick dead.
I’ve also just completed a stand-alone book, The Missing Time, where Reporter, Jordan Munro, risks everything, in her search for the madman who abducted her years ago. Jordan ‘s goal is to find her abductor and stop her descent into madness, even it means betraying a child and deceiving the man she loves.
Wow! You have a knack for grabbing my attention, that’s for sure! Let’s take a closer look at MIND OVER MATTER before we scoop everyone on the giveaway. :c)
MIND OVER MATTER | blurb
Rebecca McKenney grieved the loss of her daughter for three years. Now, a vision showing Sabrina three years older, suggests her baby is still alive, and the FBI agent who gave up the search is the only one who can help find her.
Special Agent Dan Cooper is haunted by a tragic mistake made early in the investigation of Sabrina’s disappearance. Now to ease his conscience he agrees to help Rebecca search.
Together they fight inner demons, all to real bad guys, and an attraction neither wants to admit to. Each step closer to finding Sabrina is a step deeper into deception and evil.
Can Rebecca and Dan save Sabrina before it’s too late?
MIND OVER MATTER | excerpt
Rebecca knew from experience she didn’t have much time left. A vision came at her, hard and strong…
The child’s face from the milk carton, about six or seven years old, hovered before her, similar yet different. Shivers wracked her body as she huddled in a corner, her long brown curls limp and dull. Smudges on her face spread when she used a dirty forearm to swipe away tears, and a cut bled through the tear in her dress. A flickering light illuminated the dark room, hinting at secrets in the shadows. The sound of water dripping, slow and steady like a leaky faucet, met Rebecca’s ears and her nose crinkled at the stench of urine and human waste. The child looked up. All trace of color drained from her face when a deep voice crept out of the darkness.
“Rebecca, did you hear me?” Ruby’s voice penetrated the fog surrounding Rebecca’s mind.
“W-What?” She lifted her head, taking in the dining room around her. The tourist family still sat waiting for their breakfast. “I’m sorry Ruby, what did you say?”
“You okay, hon? You were in another world there for a minute.”
“I’m fine. Really,” she added at Ruby’s doubtful expression. “Didn’t sleep well again last night, I guess.” She forced a grin. “Good thing you caught me before I nodded off and started drooling in my coffee.” The mention of coffee drew Rebecca’s gaze to the carton of milk again. The girl’s innocent face stared back. Something seemed wrong. Rebecca leaned in, reading the caption under the photo. Nicole Wilson; missing for six years, before Bree even.
“I hope you don’t mind that I helped myself to the milk,” Rebecca said, and explained what happened. “Didn’t want to be a bother.”
“Honey, it’s no problem at all, but you didn’t have to do that.”
“Not to worry, it’s over and done now.” Rebecca looked down at the pancakes and fruit before her and knew little would make it past her lips “Breakfast looks delicious, as usual,” she lied.
Ruby looked over at the children’s order of pancakes in front of the empty seat across from Rebecca. She moved her gaze back to Rebecca for a moment longer, before nodding as if confirming something in her head. “Okay then. Enjoy.” Ruby picked up the milk carton as a bell dinged from the kitchen area. “Let me know if you need a refill on your coffee.” Smiling, Ruby went off to deliver the next order.
Rebecca’s stomach roiled at the thought of eating. Nausea and a headache overwhelmed her. She needed to get home where she could decipher what this vision meant. With Ruby monitoring her every move, coming up with a way out of the diner proved difficult.
Forcing another smile, Rebecca picked up her fork and knife and waved them in the air for Ruby to see. At Ruby’s disappointed frown, Rebecca cut the pancakes, and placed a small piece between her lips. Once Ruby smiled and turned away, Rebecca spit the bite out into a napkin. She spent another few minutes cutting and moving food around, hiding small bits under the second pancake. Pulling some money out of her wallet, she kept an eye out. As soon as Ruby went back to the kitchen for the next order pick-up, Rebecca threw the bills down on the table and made her escape.
Rebecca’s first deep breath came when she sat safe inside her car at the other end of Main Street. Home. She had to hold it together until then. Shoving the key into the ignition, she crossed her fingers, and then groaned at the dull grind that met her ears.
“Crap. Not today!” Rebecca cursed for putting off taking the car in to Joshua. Hands shaking, she tried again, holding her grimace until the engine caught.
The edge of another vision crept in while she pulled into the driveway. “Shit. One more minute, come on, one more minute.”
She fumbled at the keyhole, hands shaking too hard to fit the key in the lock. Rebecca crossed the threshold and fell to her knees as the pain sliced in again, worse this time. Never before had two visions come so close together. What the hell?
Rebecca’s world faded and in its place…
Sabrina appeared. Her baby. Sitting on the floor in a room of shadows, chin resting on drawn up knees. “Where are you Mommy? Why haven’t you come?” The shadows opened up, pushing forward to swallow both the light and Bree.
“Nooooooooo.” Rebecca came back tears streaming down her face and fell to the floor. Limp, she laid there, an arm thrown across her eyes. “So close.”
Rebecca rolled as her stomach revolted, giving up its meager contents. Pushing herself to her knees with the last heave, she drew the back of a hand across her mouth.
The memory of losing Sabrina burned in her mind forever, but these fresh images; God, they made it so much worse. Rebecca crawled the few feet to the still open door, shoved it closed and leaned against it, shaking with sobs.
The late morning sun shone through the windows when she refocused. Struggling to her feet, she took in the scene around her.
Clean this mess up, and then shower. You can deal with the rest later. Rebecca tossed the soiled clothes in the washing machine on the way to the bathroom.
Revived by the hot shower, Rebecca poured a glass of iced tea. She curled up in the big chair in the living room, rested her chin on her knees, and tried to make sense of the morning’s events. Break it down. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Tackle the vision at Ruby’s first.
Who are you, Nicole Wilson, and why are you in my head?
S.J. CLARKE | bio & links
S.J. Clarke has published over fifty articles as a columnist and regular contributor for a variety of lifestyle and human interest websites. She is a grateful member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, and proud to sit on the Board of Directors for The Ontario Writer’s Conference. Sandra also co-authored Touretties, a touching tribute featuring testimonials from patients and and their loved ones living with Tourette’s. Mind Over Matter, released in November, 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, is her first novel.
As promised, my lovelies, there’s booty to be had! (Seriously, get your minds out of the gutter! LOL). We have an e-copy of MIND OVER MATTER to give away (PDF, epub, or prc). To qualify for the giveaway, head over and like either one of S.J. Clarke’s FB pages (author or MIND OVER MATTER), then leave a comment here with your email address to let us know you’re in. Thanks so much for joining us, everyone, and good luck!
S.J. (those are my first and middle initials, by the way!), I’ve had a great time. Thank you!